Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I am reading Thomas Merton’s “No Man Is An Island,” and was struck by this short passage. I don’t feel I need to add much…except to say that it speaks to me on several fronts that I have been/am dealing with.
1. The craving for significance...which I think it is idolatry
2. The need to withdraw from society at times…in order to deal with our stuff….so as not to overwhelm others with our own unhappiness…
3. Self-conscious living...which Father has showed me is the flip side of the sin of pride
4. We need not worry about our progress…or success….just keep putting Him on in every situation without worrying if anyone sees or takes note…or appreciates…or even about the outcome….
5. We are not expected to make of ourselves anything other than what Father is making of us…
So with no further adieu….(as they say)….Here’s a nice little bit from T. Merton:
“3. All men seek peace first of all with themselves. That is necessary, because we do not naturally find rest even in our own being. We have to learn to commune with ourselves before we can communicate with other men and with God. A man who is not at peace with himself necessarily projects his interior fighting into the society of those he lives with, and spreads a contagion of conflict all around him. Even when he tries to do good to others his efforts are hopeless, since he does not know how to do good to himself. In moments of wildest idealism, he may take it into his head to make other people happy; and in doing so he will overwhelm them with his own unhappiness. He seeks to find himself somehow in the work of making others happy. Therefore he throws himself into the work. As a result he gets out of the work all that he put into it; his own confusion, his own disintegration, his own unhappiness.
It is useless to try to make peace with ourselves by being pleased with everything we have done. In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity. We must withdraw ourselves, to some extent, from effects that are beyond our control and be content with the good will and the work that are the quiet expression of our inner life. We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting an immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition.
It is only when we are detached from ourselves that we can be a t peace with ourselves. We cannot find happiness in our work if we are always extending ourselves beyond ourselves and beyond the sphere of our work in order to find ourselves greater than we are.
Our Christian destiny is, in fact, a great one; but we cannot achieve greatness unless we lose all interest in being great. For our own idea of greatness is illusory, and if we pay too much attention to it we will be lured out of the peace and stability of the being God gave us, and seek to live in a myth we have created for ourselves. It is, therefore a very great thing to be little, which is to say; to be ourselves. And when we are truly ourselves we lose most of the futile self-consciousness that keeps us constantly comparing ourselves with others in order to see how big we are."
From “No Man Is An Island” by Thomas Merton (Trappist Monk). This is section three of chapter seven, “Being and Doing.”